Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type

Dissertation/Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Department

Department of History

Advisor(s)

J. Chris Arndt

Abstract

As tensions grew in the British colonies in the late eighteenth century, colonists began expressing their new hopes for an independent nation. While the call to action for the physical fight against the British was directed toward men, women could not help but respond in kind. After centuries of domestic confinement and the new Enlightenment period showing possibilities for secondary roles, women used the coming war as a showcase for their capabilities. Some chose to act on the home front, boycotting British goods and fundraising for the soldiers, while others stepped outside of their bounds and participated in battle. Later on, these women would use their contributions in the Patriot war effort as grounds for social and political reform. Their achievements marked the beginning of a women’s movement, as women’s secondary roles were acknowledged though later dismissed. Beginning with an explanation of the initial status of women in the eighteenth century and the rising revolutionary consciousness influenced by Enlightenment ideals, I plan to discuss the motives and efforts of famous and anonymous females throughout the Revolutionary War, ending with post-war results and consequences. My argument states that these women fought for societal reform in recognition of their efforts, with the Enlightenment serving as a primary influence for their actions, thoughts, and contributions to the war. I trace the Age of Reason and its ideologies throughout my research in order to give insight into the logic and hopes motivating the women of the revolutionary era, with the lack of substantial post-war change suggesting the dissipation of Enlightenment ideals. I have used perspectives of both sexes to maintain the reasoning for early nineteenth century outcomes.

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